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Daniel Daniel interview


The Lonesome Hollow comes across like the soundtrack to some pulp novel drama, and why shouldn’t it, the songs sound as if they’ve fallen from the sky, with many of the numbers coming to life as if they’ve been lifted from some half forgotten yellowed newspaper that’s been sitting on the counter in an off the beaten path diner for longer than anyone can remember.

Jenell: Tonight I have the pleasure of sitting down with Daniel Daniel, who has a great new release filled with pure Americana, one laced with hidden stories, a bit of humor and wonderful music. Daniel, thanks for making the time.

Daniel: Hello Jenell, thanks for having me.

Jenell: You do know that the first question I’ve got to ask is about the double name?

Daniel: Yeah, it is just my first name twice. Nothing fancy about it.


Jenell: Well that clears that up. Let me ask you about that album photo with you looking like the long lost brother of Rick Danko. Who was responsible for that?

Daniel: Wow, Rick Danko? (laughing) That is a first! I wanted all of the promo shots for this record to be film and I was particularly interest in tintypes. The photo is an original tintype film shot by my friend, Courtney Green.

Jenell: Your album, as good as it is, unfolds slowly, seeming to almost redefine itself with every listen. Could you speak to those songs and stories?

Daniel: Well thank you. The songs on this record follow a theme of loss, regret, angst, and heartache and I definitely had a character in my head while writing. Some of my favorite songs like “The Lonesome Hollow”, “Honey, I” and “Money, Money, Money” were all written with distinct images and scenes in my head. I think all records have a mood and my producer Matt Williams and I really tried to hone in and refine what we wanted listeners to experience.

Jenell: Sending chills up my spine, “Howlin’ At The Moon” is just about the most hauntingly low-keyed anthem I’ve heard since John Hiatt’s “Adios To California,” sounding like the soundtrack to a pulp fiction novel. Is there a story behind this gem?

Daniel: Thank you. This is song is probably the most physical on the record. The character in the song is pining for something he must have but there is also a connotation of this individual being haunted by something himself.

Jenell: So rude of me not to get into this from the get-go, would you please list the players on this album, because the fires you all set together are just wonderful?

Daniel: I was grateful to work with some real legends and genuinely great people. Jay Bellerose on drums, Eric Heywood and Russ Pahl on pedalsteel, Jenn Condos on Bass, David Piltch and Dennis Crouch on upright bass. Matt Williams, Electric Guitar/Piano/Wurlitzer, Ben Shive played keys and organ.

Jenell: There’s not much I enjoy more than alternative country music, yet you’ve managed to redefine that idea with the way you’ve layered your material, something that few others seem to understand.  Was this just how you heard the music, or did you have an ah-ha moment of epiphany?

Daniel: I had a good sense of how I wanted these songs to come across and it helped having really great players around me. They all brought their experience and expertise which helped shape the songs. My producer Matt Williams and I wanted these songs to stand on their own without any added instruments and if played live, to not be far removed from the recorded version. We held each note and each other accountable. I think the great thing about Matt’s skill in producing this is that it doesn’t feel produced. It just feels real. That was really important to both of us.

Jenell: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the slight homage to The Beach Boys on “Darkness,” was that considered and done on purpose or was it one of those things that snuck up on you unrealized until you heard the playback?

Daniel: I love the Beach Boys but that was not intentional.


Jenell: Several of you songs sound very old, I mean Depression Era old, what is there about that particular style of lo-fi music that you found so enticingly interesting?

Daniel: You have a perceptive ear. I listen to a lot of old music and it definitely bled into what you hear on the record. I also think some of that old sound can be attributed to the instruments that we recorded with. Jay plays some really old, beautiful Slingerland Bomber drums, Dennis Crouch plays an upright bass from the 1940s and I recorded most of the acoustic on a 1932 Gibson.

Jenell: Your material suggest that you’re a bit of a perfectionist, were your recording sessions lengthy, were you constantly re-visiting songs you considered finished throughout the process?

Daniel: The recording sessions were not abnormally long. Matt and I had a lot of back and forth on what we felt needed to be in the song. We always would end up somewhere in the middle. I am sure I drove Matt crazy at times but we both wanted to get it right. I learned a lot through the process.

Jenell: (laughing) Last time we spoke you noted that food and cooking was a big part of your life … this would suggest that you’re fond of a communal setting, which sort of spills over into your music, giving it a relaxed atmosphere.

Daniel: That’s an interesting observation. One of my favorite things to do is invite a bunch of my friends over, open up some good wine and cook well into the evening. Matt Williams and I both really enjoy food and cooking as do most of the band. We celebrated completing the record with dinner over at Jay and Jenn’s house in Los Angeles. They are both great chefs.

Jenell: It took me by surprise that “Lonesome Hollow” has no physical presence. Does this mean there are things you might like to change or add before committing to compact disc, or better yet vinyl, which is how I’d love to hear you?

Daniel: I actually had a limited run of CDs made for a festival I played and there are some leftover should anyone want one. We plan to cut vinyl in the near future which I am excited about. We will be using Ron McMaster from Capitol Studios.


Jenell: To that end, who’s on your turntable at the moment?

Daniel: I’ve been listening to a lot of Little Walter, Ernest Tubb, and Blind Willie Johnson

Jenell: Would you take a moment and talk about your personal instruments, did you use more than one guitar, do you prefer strings that sit higher or lower over the frets? And since we’re in this deep, where was all this recorded, and how was the recording space set up? Analog vs. digital preferences? 

Daniel: I have a couple of kids ... A 1932 Gibson L-00 which I used primarily for this record, I also have a 1958 Martin 00 parlor guitar, and a 1954 Gibson J45. We recorded it at EMP studios in Los Angeles, my house in Nashville, some in New York City, and some at Matt William’s studio in DC. This record was digital but I love Analog. There is a certain warmness with Analog that you can’t replace and I hope to be able to record a project that way.

Jenell: I find it telling, so I’ll ask, if your wishes could be granted, what acoustic and electric guitar would you like to be holding in your hand?

Daniel: I would love a vintage Gibson 330 hollow-body and of course, a 40s Martin D28.

Jenell: Thanks for taking a few minutes, and again, when you find your way to New Mexico, you’ll be well taken care of. Is there anything I’ve missed that you might like to say? And please tell the folks where they can find you on the world wide web.

Daniel: Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed the questions. I am on most social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


- Jenell Kesler
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1 comment:

Elizabeth Schuck Tobin said...

Daniel Daniel has an amazing voice and his talent and artistic abilities should take him far. This album is fantastic.